Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympics deaths

The death in Vancouver last Friday of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili (pictured above in his casket and on the track) was one of only a handful of deaths of athletes and others at the Olympics Games over the years:

Francisco Lazaro, 1912 Stockholm
This 21-year-old Portuguese long-distance runner collapsed during the marathon at the Summer Olympics and died the next day.

Knut Enemark Jensen, 1960 Rome
This 22-year-old Danish cyclist suffered from heatstroke in the sweltering temperatures at the Summer Olympics. He fell from his bicycle and hit his head on the road, dying of a fractured skull later that day. An autopsy revealed amphetamines in his system, which spurred subsequent emphasis on testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, 1964 Innsbruck
This Polish-born British luger - a former RAF pilot in his 50s - died in a crash during a practice run at the Winter Olympics.

Ross Milne, 1964 Innsbruck
A 19-year-old Australian downhill skier was also killed during a training run at that year's Winter Olympics after striking a tree, which his manager insisted was not due to lack of experience, but a course obscured by spectators.

Jorg Oberhammer, 1988 Calgary
This 47-year-old Austrian team doctor was killed in a lull in competition at the Winter Games when he collided with another skier and was knocked into the path of a snow-clearing machine.

Nicolas Bochatay, 1992 Albertville
This 27-year-old Swiss speed skier died of internal injuries immediately after crashing into a snow-grooming machine during a practice run at the Winter Olympics, where speed skiing was a demonstration sport that year.

This list does not include the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Summer Games in Munich in 1972 or the 2 spectators killed when a pipe bomb was detonated at the Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996. As tragic as these deaths are, occurrences are more rare than deaths caused by running marathons, which are estimated to average 4 to 6 of the 425,000 annual competitors. Deaths are more prone in the Winter rather than the Summer Olympics, but the athletes are aware of the risks of their extreme sports at this level of competition.

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